Reports indicate that the Red Sox and Indians have reached a preliminary agreement in a deal involving center fielder Coco Crisp, and highly touted third base prospect Andy Marte. Marte is coveted by the Indians, and has been their focus in any trade with the Sox.
To obtain Josh Beckett, the Sox had to part with the organization's top position-player prospect, Hanley Ramirez. In acquiring Marte from the Braves in exchange for Edgar Renteria, the Sox filled that void with yet another elite prospect. But almost immediately, other teams began inquiring about the young third baseman in trade talks with the Red Sox this offseason. However, the Sox have appeared reluctant to deal Marte before he's even donned a team jersey.
For the Sox, Marte's arrival softened the blow of losing their most highly regarded prospect - one who could have become a mainstay of the infield for years to come. But if they are now grudgingly forced to part with him - to fill the gaping hole in center - they would be obligated to make up for having mortgaged their future by acquiring yet another frontline prospect.
That player could be Dodgers third base prospect Willy Aybar. If the Sox are able to secure Aybar in a trade for David Wells, that would make Marte expendable.
Last year in 26 games with the Dodgers, Aybar hit .326 with a .448 on base percentage. If the Sox can pry him away from L.A., the deal for Crisp looks even better. Aybar would easily make up for the loss of Marte, who hit just .140 with a .227 OBP in 24 games with the Braves last season.
The 26-year-old Crisp would fill both the center field and leadoff holes for the Sox.
Crisp appeals to the Red Sox not only because he's very inexpensive - and won't be eligible for free agency for another four years - but also because he hit .300 last season, to go along with an .810 OPS, 16 home runs and 69 RBI. His 178 hits and 44 walks resulted in a .345 OBP. A speedster, Crisp hit 43 doubles and stole 15 bases. Hardball Times also ranked him as the best defensive left fielder in baseball. Furthermore, Crisp can play all three outfield positions and, perhaps most importantly, can bat leadoff. Compare his numbers to Damon's last season, and the results are surprisingly pleasing. The two match up quite well:
Damon - Crisp
Age: 32 26
AVG. .316 .300
OBP: .366 .345
HR: 10 16
RBI: 75 69
SB: 18 15
Hits: 197 178
BB: 53 44
2B: 35 43
As you can see, the numbers are quite comparable. But at 32, Damon is as good as he'll ever be. In other words, this is as good as he gets. However, at just 26, Crisp is still developing and likely has his best years still ahead of him. Damon also had the luxury of being a part of baseball's best offense the last three seasons. Plug Crisp into that lineup, and watch his numbers grow. And with a little more plate discipline, his average and on base percentage will surely rise. If Crisp played 81 games a season at Fenway, it's not difficult to imagine him standing on second base quite regularly. Crisp also hit 48 points higher away from Jacobs Field, so hitting in the friendly confines of Fenway Park would likely be quite satisfactory, and equally rewarding, to him.
But the deal could be held up if the Indians can't find a suitable replacement for Crisp.
To that end, Cleveland has had talks with the Phillies about acquiring outfielder Jason Michaels in exchange for Rafael Betancourt, plus David Riske or Arthur Rhodes. However, those negotiations have proven unsuccessful to this point.
The reason could be that Michaels comes with baggage. On Friday he agreed to complete 100 hours of community service to settle charges that he allegedly assaulted a Philadelphia police officer.
The 29-year-old was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest after he allegedly punched Officer Timothy Taylor, wrestled him to the ground, and ripped his shirt outside a nightclub on July 3. Other officers had to subdue Michaels during the incident.
Michaels agreed to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Phillies this week after hitting .304 with four homers and 31 RBI in 289 at-bats last season.
Let's hope Cleveland is willing to take a gamble on him, and isn't scared off by his seemingly out of control behavior.
Copyright © 2006 Sean Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.